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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 02:50 AM EDT

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Costa Rica and Panama Negotiating The Elimination Of Passports For Border Crossing

Immigration IssuesCosta Rica and Panama are working towards eliminating the need for passports for its citizens to move across the border. The announcement was made by Costa Rica's president Laura Chinchilla and her Panamanian counterpart, Roberto Martinelli, holding a bilateral meeting Friday after the inauguration ceremony of the Sixaola temporary border bridge. The objective is to reduce the immigration procedures for Panamanian and Costa Rican citizens to cross the border between the two countries. In remote areas like Sixaola, area residents normally cross back and forth across the border freely. (insidecostarica.com)
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Here's One For The Lawyers Out There - Do Old Convictions Screw You For Immigration Issues?

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I received a question from a person who wants to come to Panama under the Pensionado program, but they are concerned about the requirement for an FBI background check. They have a very old (30+ years ago) conviction and more recent arrests but the charges were dismissed. I simply don't know the rules - what will Immigration let through, and what will cause a rejection. Do any of you really smart lawyers types out there know the deal? Has anyone else had experience with this sort of thing? Where is the bar set? Please put answers in the comments section below. Thankos muchos...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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43 People Sworn In As New Panamanian Citizens

Immigration IssuesAt the end of each month, the Government of Panama swears in approximately 45 people who become residents of the Republic. The most recent event was held on Thursday, 28 June 2012. On that day 43 people were sworn in as new Panamanian citizens, in an event witnessed by Government Minister Jorge Ricardo Fabrega and the ambassador of Colombia, Maria Angela Benedetti Villaneda. In this most recent ceremony there were 15 Colombians and 15 Chinese. The citizens of these countries are those who most often acquire Panamanian nationality, according to statistics from the Interior. Others who benefited from this measure were born in Argentina, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Ukraine and Thailand.

Nationalized Annually - So far this year about 792 people have been sworn in, according to Eva Samudio, of the Disclosure Department of the Interior. In 2011 a total of 559 people of various nationalities were sworn in as new Panamanians. Taking into account the country of birth or origin, the person can hope to get both nationalities, provided this is permitted by the laws of their home country. (Siglo)

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Response And Follow Up To Yesterday's "Spilled Perfume" Story

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today as a follow up and in response to the article published yesterday - Don't Cry Over - Spilled Perfume? (US Citizen Denied Entry At Tocumen International Airport) - "Dear Sir, I am writting you to follow up on my comment about the spilt perfume although you make think this whole ordeal a joke. Let me explain to you I have traveled to Mexico, Chilie, Ecuador, Spain,Portugal which are obviously out of the United States boarders. I work for Brook Brothers retail stores and have traveled all over the US to open new store. If you read the email I wrote I was there to help with a store opening and train the team with the new store! Let me explain a little bit of my background so maybe you can understand where I am coming from with this story.

I wad BORN, let me repeat myself Born in Boston, MA. I went to college there graduated and went straight into retail managment. I have been in retail now for 19yrs. I have been working with BB nw for 7 1/2 yrs. I am a single mother of a 7 yr old boy, I live here in Georgia close by my parents, brother and sister and their families. My travel and when I travel is usually 3-4days and no more because of my son. My travel time to Panama was fly in tuesday the 26 and out the 29th. I cant understand how you got that there must be more from this than just spilt perfume! Lets go back a bit "hello how did I get back in the US?" If thete was more to my story why would the States ley me back in. I do think the US has much more sophisticated equipment then Panama. I dont think you get the whole point of my email "crying over spilt perfume" not a chance! The last time I cried was when my son was born at 24weeks at 1lb 6oz and given 30% survival so dont tell me about crying! I still think I was the pick day! Look Ive traveled to plenty countries to know whats right and whats wrong, whats unprofessional and whats professional behavior. I still think they handled the whole situation very poorly. I am just trying to figure out how a country supposedly working to build relationships with retailers to bring more business to their country can be treated so unprofessional. I must add to this I did not ask to go to Panama I was asked by the group that is franchising BB to come out and train their employees. So where your getting there must be more to this story, Im sorry but there isnt! I am no criminal, nor am I in any sort of group. I am just a manager at a BB store! Sorry that I wasnt some sort of spy or something maybe it would of made your perception of my mishap a little more exciting!"

Editor's Comment: Look, I have no idea why the government of Panama refused you entry. It very well could have been because of the spilled perfume, as you suspect. However, it could also have been for some other reason. And once again, nowhere in this email did you explicitly claim the Panamanian authorities said you were being refused entry because your passport was damaged (by the perfume). That's what you suspect, and I understand your position, but the fact of the matter is - you don't know for sure. I have two more observations - glad to see Brooks Brothers is coming to Panama. Secondly, you might want to consider using both a spelling and grammar checker before sending out any more written communications. Just a suggestion...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Permanent Residency for Nationals of Countries Friendly to Panama

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I received the following from Lic. Ricardo Faraudo of the Panama Relocation Attorneys. He wrote up this explanation of the new Permanent Resident Visa category for those from "friendly" countries;

Permanent Residency for Nationals of Countries Friendly to Panama - This permanent residency option allows foreigners from, one of the countries listed below, to obtain legal permanent residency in Panama, under the condition that they are going to practice economic or professional activities of any type in the Republic of Panama.

The nationals of the following countries will be allowed to apply for a permanent residency under the current residency option: Germany, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Spain, United States, Slovakia, France, Finland, The Kingdom of the Netherlands (The Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao & Sint Maarten), Ireland, Japan, Norway, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Singapore, Uruguay, Chile and Sweden. (more)

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Don't Cry Over - Spilled Perfume? (US Citizen Denied Entry At Tocumen International Airport)

Immigration Issues By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this afternoon via email: "Dear sir, The reason for my email is a little hard to understand but yet quite amusing. I actually traveled to Panama yesterday morning at 6:40 am from Atlanta GA due to arrive in Panana at 11:30am. Evrrything was running smoothly, left the US with my passport in hand and was told by the US to continue my travel. I must tell you though there was a spilt perfume bottle next to my passport and it leaked on to it. Of course the worst thing about it was that out of all 4 people who looked at it just said "well it smells good". So I countinued onward with not a worry.

When I got to immigration the lady at the counter asked me what happened and I said oh the perfume bottle spilled on it. She kept looking at it and I said go ahead smell it its just perfume! She askes me why I was there for I said I am here to help with the opening of a new store here in Via Espania. I will only be here for four days to train and get the store ready. I continued to show her my work flight intinerary showing I was here for that reason and that reason only. She continued to tell me that she need to show her supervisor and that it would take just a few minutes. 20 min later she comes back and asks me to take a seat until someone talks to me.

3 hours later a man in uniform calls my name and says please follow me. I said are you taking me to talk to somone, he says no Im taking you to your plane for you flight back. I look at him very confused and distort, home where? To Atlanta. I said what because of the perfume smell on my passport? They treated me very poorly and not even a word of what was happening. I was there to train a new store a very well know store here in the United States and give Panama the best support I could give with my knowledge. I dont know maybe because I was a women traveling alone they thought they could easily do this and I would just go away. But I was treated like a criminal and for what for perfume stain on my passport. I traveled from6:40am-12:30am the following day, it was a long and very unnecessary mishap and now have to report to the company I work for why I couldn't help with the new Panama store because of perfume, how embarrassing and how disappointed and almost sad to have our store represented there when I was treated so poorly."

Editor's Comment: Two observations here. First of all, the person writing this email is apparently assuming she was refused entry into Panama because of the perfume that was spilled on her passport. At no point does she clearly say the Panamanian immigration officials flat out told her she was being refused entry because her passport had been damaged in some way. Panama now uses a relatively sophisticated traveler monitoring system, linked in to databases maintained by the United States and the rest of the nations of Central America and the region. It's possible (probable) this person was refused entry to Panama because of something that came up on their computer screens when they scanned her passport. Panama also maintains their own in-house database and a list of people who will be refused entry if they show up at the immigration gates. Remember the Canadian girl who wrote and published an article about mining that was in favor of all of the environmental elements and against the government of Ricardo Martinelli? They didn't let her in either and they treated her exactly the same way. They simply turned her around and put her on the next plane out of the country - she never made it out of the airport, just like in this case. So, while the writer seems to think she was denied entry due to spilled perfume, I suspect something else way in play. I don't know what, but I'll bet it was more than just a little Chanel Number 69.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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5,000 Foreigners Processed, 600 Work Permits Handed Out

Immigration IssuesThe Ministry of Labor issued about 600 work permits to the more than 5,000 foreigners who participated in the "melting pot" immigration event, which was extended by 48 hours. According to Samuel Vargas, the Director of Employment for the Ministry of Labor, said Colombians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans were the once who most requested the document that will allow them to legally work in Panama for two years. The official said any foreigner who wishes to apply for permission can do so in their offices, but they are evaluating whether or not they can issue the work permits under the same parameters established for the special "melting pot" events. The event was scheduled to start on 18 June and run through Friday 22 June, but as of this afternoon it had not yet completed. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Over the weekend I spoke to both the Director of Immigration, Javier Carrillo, and the Minister of Labor Alma Cortez. By Friday evening they still had not processed everyone who had showed up, and Carrillo said they would keep working until all of the foreigners had been processed. That's exactly what they did. But then the people from the Banco Nacional closed down their booth and left. Since no one could pay the money for the work permits, the Ministry of Labor people also left, but they told everyone to come back on Monday morning. So the entire event was "extended" through today in order to continue processing everyone who showed up. In fact, KUDOS to both Immigration and the Ministry of Labor personnel who worked 24 hours a day for a week to process all of these people. Some 5,000 foreigners are now legal, and (apparently) more than 600 of them got their work permits. Good for them. And for the record, these people don't go against the 10% limitation on hiring a foreigner in your company, once they've got their immigration permit and a work permit. It's just like hiring a Panamanian in that case. The 10% thing is a different special program, with different requirements and parameters, so don't confuse the two.

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Concern Growing Among Those In Line At The "Melting Pot" Immigration Fair

Immigration IssuesBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This week Panama's National Immigration Service is holding their 9th "Melting Pot" event. Foreigners living in Panama can present their documents and "normalize" their immigration status in the country. Those who apply, meet the requirements, and are approved are given a card good for two years allowing them to stay in Panama legally, from an immigration point of view. In addition they can also apply for a work permit through the Ministry of Labor. These applications are also being processed at the same "Melting Pot" fair event simultaneously.

This is generally a very good deal for most foreigners because it allows them to live here in Panama and to work legally, on the books, without fear of being deported or taken advantage of by unscrupulous business owners. It's also a good deal for the government of Panama because they are charging about $1,300 per head or more to process the paperwork. So if they process 5,000 foreigners this week, the government of Panama will be receiving more than $6.5 million dollars in fees.

In addition those approved will be given a work permit so they can apply for jobs and work legally in the country. This means they will be paying into the Social Security system, and they will also pay income taxes. This system takes people who are already here in Panama and working in the "gray" labor market and it brings them into the light, where the larger formalized system can get a slice of what they are making. The Panamanian economy is facing a labor shortage, so these fairs provide a trickle of new and legally registered manpower - people who can be hired to work "on the books" by local business owners.

In the past couple of years the administration of Ricardo Martinelli has conducted these events around the country, with the greatest effort focused on Panama City. This is the ninth such event, and it looks to be one of the biggest or best attended.

This morning I was contacted by some of the people who have been in line both inside and outside of the Roberto Duran arena for days. They expressed their concern over the slow progress. Many have been waiting in line since last weekend, and have gone without sleep or creature comforts. They are uncomfortable and cranky. They are afraid immigration officials might eventually tell them to leave and then not take care of them. And when people get tired and cranky, tempers flare. Believe it or not I have a following among the Spanish speaking expatriate community in Panama as well, and these people were hoping I could find out what's going on.

This morning I spoke with the Director of Immigration Javier Carrillo, and I asked him to address these concerns. Carrillo said "we are there working 24 hours a day. We're doing everything we can, and I can't ask my people to work 36 hours a day because obviously that would be impossible."

Carrillo said they have been somewhat surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people who have shown up to "normalize" their immigration status in the country at this particular event. "As of midday yesterday so far we have attended more than 1,500 people. We have had more of a response this time than we expected."

With regards to the slow progress and people having to wait in line for days, Carrillo said "that's part of the sacrifice they will have to make, the same way that my staff is working hard to take care of them, they will have to be willing to make some sacrifices as well. They are inside the arena, under a roof and not exposed to the elements, it's air conditioned, and there are chairs where they can sit and wait. We are working as hard as we can, and they will have to be patient."

Some people were complaining about a lack of vendors selling food, and Carrillo said "there are two concessionaires inside of the arena who have a contract to sell food, so no one is starving." He explained these were not contracts or concessions let by Immigration, but they are people who have already obtained contracts to sell food at all events held at the arena, so to a certain extent he does not have any control over what they do. I checked again after the interview and was told that yes, in fact there are two food vendors with stands inside of the arena. However these people are apparently also somewhat overwhelmed as well, and while both the Immigration officials and the foreigners are there 24 hours, the food vendors are not. I was told as of this morning they had just returned and were getting set up, ready to get started and open for business.

The people waiting in line were also concerned they might be turned away, and their paperwork would not be processed, because of the long lines and the numbers of people waiting. Carrillo said "anyone who arrives before 7:00 pm on Friday evening will be taken care of. I don't care if we have to work all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and all day Monday. My staff will keep working 24 hours a day until we have processed everyone who has turned out for this event, as long as they meet the requirements and if they have arrived before the end of the fair." So, no one is going to be turned away. Apparently at this point the Immigration officials are sort of making an "official list" - just registering the names and passport numbers of the people who are waiting, giving them a slip of paper, and telling them to "come back tomorrow." The bottom line is, as long as you're registered and on that list, you'll be taken care of.

So, That's The Deal: If you know someone who's waiting in line just tell them to be patient. It's slow going, but progress is being made.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Slow Progress, Long Lines At The "Melting Pot" Immigration Fair

Immigration IssuesThe National Immigration Service (NMS) granted 356 temporary residence cards to foreigners living in Panama during the 9th version of the 'melting pot' fair which began last Monday and will run until Friday 22 June. Meanwhile, outside of the Arena Roberto Duran foreigners from various countries have been waiting to be served since last Saturday. Some of them say the procedure is taking too long and progress is slow, although the officials are working 24 hours a day. According to a report from Immigration so far they have normalized the status of 228 Colombians, 40 Venezuelans, 33 Nicaraguans, 30 Indians and 9 Dominicans. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: There are about three thousand people at the Roberto Duran arena, just sitting around, waiting to be taken care of. If they've only gotten through 356 in two days, then I don't see how they are going to be able to take care of everyone between now and Friday. They were expecting at least 5,000 total.

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Ninth "Melting Pot" Immigration Fair Started Today

Immigration IssuesToday the "Melting Pot" Immigration fair started, and will run daily until Friday 22 June and will serve more than 5,000 foreigners who are in Panama. Thousands of people have flocked to the Roberto Duran arena to be granted one of these special permissions from the National Immigration Service, some sleeping outside the doors since last Friday on inflatable mattresses or tents, wanting to be first in line. More than 400 officials from the National Immigration Service will be working at the event who will be serving the public from 9:00 am until 7:00 pm. Some of the requirements - foreigners must have been in the country for at least a year. Entry stamps in their passports should not be more than six months apart. They should not have already started some sort of legalization process through Immigration under another program. And, they must apply in person. (Dia a Dia)

Editor's Comment: There were about 650 people waiting in line over the weekend. If they expect to attend more than 5,000 people during the week, that would be about 1,000 per day. There are notary public services available on site as well for those who have to make documents official. Through this program you can get "legal" for two years, and get a work permit. The government is using these fairs to get people who are already here and working anyway to become "legal" in the system, so they can pay into the Social Security system, pay income taxes, etc. The permits are only good for two years so they can yank it at any time.

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